HOW ARE THE STATE AND FEDERAL AGENCIES WORKING TOGETHER TO IMPLEMENT THE COMPREHENSIVE EVERGLADES RESTORATION PLAN

The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is one of the largest environmental restoration projects in history. It involves coordination between numerous federal, state, and local agencies to restore the delicate South Florida ecosystem and restore natural water flows to the Everglades. The CERP was authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 with the goal to reverse the effects of drainage and development in South Florida over the last century that have seriously degraded the Everglades.

The core federal partner in implementing CERP is the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) which has primary responsibility for designing, constructing, and overseeing restoration projects. The lead state agency is the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) which is responsible for water management, land acquisition, and permitting for CERP projects. Other key federal agencies involved include the Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At the state level, other partners include the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Local sponsors and stakeholders such as water control districts, counties, environmental groups are also involved in providing input and support.

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To facilitate coordination between these various partners, an interagency organizational structure was established. The Governor and Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Director co-chair an Executive Committee which provides overall leadership and strategic direction for CERP. An intergovernmental Task Force made up of representatives from all the involved agencies meets regularly to review progress, address issues, and make recommendations. Technical teams comprised of scientists and engineers from the agencies collaborate on developing restoration designs, monitoring plans, and adaptive management strategies. Stakeholder input is also received through public meetings and partnership programs.

Funding CERP projects requires a combination of federal appropriations managed by the Corps and state funding overseen by SFWMD. Congress typically appropriates several hundred million dollars annually through the Corps’ budget for preconstruction engineering and design, land acquisition, and construction of CERP projects. SWFWMD as the local sponsor is responsible for providing 35% of project costs under the cost share agreement. To help fund its share, Florida voters approved a $200 million Everglades Restoration Bond in 2014 and $624 million Everglades Restoration Investment Act in 2016. Full implementation of CERP’s 68 designated projects is estimated to cost over $16 billion, so securing adequate and consistent funding streams from federal, state, and private sources remains an ongoing challenge.

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To execute restoration activities on the ground, the Corps and SWFWMD enter into Project Partnership Agreements (PPAs) for each individual CERP project. These PPAs outline the roles and responsibilities of each agency, division of costs, schedules, and regulatory compliance requirements. The Corps is responsible for carrying out detailed engineering and design work, acquiring lands, and overseeing construction. SFWMWD provides reviews and approvals at critical project milestones, handles state permitting, and contributes its cost share funding. Over time, completed projects are transferred to SFWMD for long-term operation and maintenance. Projects require ongoing monitoring and adaptive management by the agencies to ensure they achieve intended ecological benefits.

Some examples of significant CERP projects that have reached construction or are underway include the Picayune Strand Restoration Project, Indian River Lagoon South Project, Bandon Marsh / C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir Project, Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project, Central Everglades Planning Project, and the Tamiami Trail Next Steps Project. To date, over 30 project components have been completed or are under construction representing over $2 billion dollars invested in Everglades restoration. Substantial work remains to fulfill the vision and timelines established in CERP for the revitalization of America’s Everglades and South Florida’s watershed. The ongoing cooperation between federal and state agencies will be crucial for long-term success implementing and adaptively managing this monumental ecological restoration effort.

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Implementation of the ambitious Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan relies on extensive coordination and partnerships between numerous federal, state, and local agencies. This includes leadership through interagency committees, collaboration on project planning and design, agreements defining roles and responsibilities, coordinated review and approval processes, combined funding contributions, and working together to construct and manage projects aimed at recovering the Greater Everglades ecosystem. While progress has been made and lessons learned over the past two decades, full restoration of the Everglades remains a long-term challenge that will continue to depend on cooperation between government agencies charged with overseeing this critical environmental restoration program.

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